Thursday, September 22, 2016

Masculine vs. Feminine, in decor

I have a notebook, filled with all the subjects I'd like to blog about this fall and as I've mentioned, the range of topics is extensive. Because we've been chatting mostly about home decor the past few days, I wanted to continue that thought, before moving on. Last week, I wrote about practical decor vs. pretty, and I'd like to dive a little further into this topic, with a slight twist. 

I've got an amazing friend who opened my eyes to the concept of masculine vs. feminine, when it comes to decor. We work together, organizing spaces but also often redesigning spaces, decorating or staging them for sale. (I do so love my job.) Her point, was that you can feel the imbalance when a space has been decorated with too many masculine items making it feel cold or industrial. Which means that the opposite is true, when a room has too many items that sway toward the feminine side, it can create a space that feels too sweet. After our conversation I was reflecting on this idea in my own home, and I realized, that she is absolutely correct!  I can tell when the balance is off and it bothers me until I tweak something, but up until this point, I wasn't sure how to define that "off" feeling! 

Since that post, I've made two or three small changes, such as relocating the paper wreaths to my french doors, moving the huge candle jar etc. and I'm amazed how the balanced feeling comes back. 

Masculine vs. Feminine.  For example, I have this darling chair above, which I would say could go either way but has a slightly more feminine feel to it, due to its softer curves and tufts.  It balances against the more masculine sofa, opposite, with it's clean lines.  On the sofa, I have sweet buffalo check pillows (definitely feminine) and I've balanced that sweetness with a small cowhide pillow on this chair.  It's like the pillows have a little conversation. (I changed out one other pillow on the sofa for one I had in my bedroom, since my last post.  It was a Pottery Barn lumbar pillow with embroidered feathers, and I exchanged it for the neutral thankful pillow, adding a slight punch of masculine into the pillow mix which felt a tad off to me.  Amazing how changing one pillow can do that. And the thankful pillow looks very at home in my bedroom so it all works.)

Side note, I am having that brain sizzle of an idea to make two doors for the Tv console table... I think, "It can't be that difficult, a handful of hinges, some wood, a little trim..." (and my husband's reluctant help.) (grin) Stay tuned.
 I'll be honest, I've fallen hard for this easy-to-move "table."  I shared previously, that it's a flipped upside-down wire basket from Land of Nod, that we got each of the kids when they were small and had out of control stuffed animals and balls.  Joe got this gray one and Ava got a white one.  I loved the white one here but on a whim, decided to try Joe's old gray one instead and it was instant "all better."  The white was great but maybe a bit too feminine with the other white-painted items...  This blended in a bit and the wood slice topper added to the more masculine feel. Just a tad more industrial. 
 Also, yes I moved the huge candle jar back to the floor.  I was too afraid of Joe cracking it when he swings himself around the corner to his room.  ("The struggle is real," says way too many broken lamps.)  That said, I am hoping to get some mums or fall branches and then I'll fill this bucket with something soft, balancing the more masculine touches in this spot with a bit of feminine.  Also, the curved basket below (feminine), pairs against the masculine bucket, lamp and frame.  I always think raw wood and metal are masculine, where painted wood and baskets are more feminine.

I don't know about you, but I really love creating our space as life moves.  I love making a haven for my people and seeing what many of you do in your homes as well. What a blessing it is, no matter our homes, our furnishings, or our taste, to make a restful landing place for those we love.  It's a privilege not to be taken lightly, yet always worth remembering not to make it an idol and let consume us.  That's always a balance worth striving for isn't it?  As I work to keep things tidy or organized in my own home, it can be a struggle not to be consumed with Pinterest ideas and seasonal home tours.  I love to re-read the 31st  chapter of Proverbs.  It often sets my brain straight and I hope it leaves you encouraged as well.  As we tweak our homes, let's serve Jesus by finding that balance and remembering why we do this job.
Proverbs 31: 17-31
"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 
 She sees that her trading is profitable and her lamp does not go out at night.  In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.  When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Teenage style- (real teen boy bedroom makeover)

A few years ago, I was trying to convince my son that he needed to throw out half of his collected "items" and make his bedroom into a teen hangout haven. 

He resisted, so I dropped the issue. Boys can get very attached to rocks and sticks and pieces of tools... grin. Fast forward a little and he was finally ready to make some changes.  We'd been chatting about things we (aka I) wanted to do for a while.  We pondered the whole industrial pipe shelf idea but it felt like a lot of work and was more expensive that it seemed at first.  Then we talked about Ikea options, but that wasn't really my son's style.  My husband came up with the idea of lockers but we couldn't ever find any that weren't hundreds of dollars!  But then last weekend we stumbled upon a great locker set up... the right price... and so we jumped.  (I am blown away by the level of storage they offer.  I didn't think we'd have enough room for all Joe's books- from an entire bookshelf- or his personal items but he has tons of empty lockers, and room at the bottom for his actual shoes and sports equipment!)

It, of course, spiraled into an entire room refresh, as these things often do.  Some much needed sorting, weeding out and trash bag filling was accomplished and with some paint, new hardware and a lot less clutter, my son now has a room that is a reflection of his own style and personality- with maybe a few Mama tweaks and influences.  (I'd been showing him photos of Restoration Hardware teen boy rooms all year and he would always roll his eyes, ask where all their stuff was and assure me that it wasn't real.  He makes me laugh.)

I'm sorry to say that I didn't capture any before photos.  Can you just trust me when I say that as a mama who likes less clutter as opposed to more... it made me cringe and ache to get my hands on it and have my way?  Mis-matched furniture... an ugly green desk... no shelf space on the walls, just a bookcase that I hated and old, tired bedding that was in need of a refresh.  He still has a folding chair for his desk because this is real life... you can't always change everything at once but with a little creativity, a lot can be done in a weekend.  Change is hard for my son.  My daughter loves to redo things but Joe gets a bit attached to the way things are and I try to be understanding.  Ah, motherhood.  We worked together and it was a sweet little bonding time for us as I helped him and talked him through it. 

We touched up all his wall paint and I painted his desk with leftover paint from my recent coffee table refresh.  Joe chose these cool drawer pulls to finish his desk look, and I installed them.  We tossed his tired duvet cover and went with his existing cozy blankets, rather than matchy bedding and I actually liked this look way better.  It's very clean and tidy.  (Of course I'm sure it will stay just like this too.)  I sewed his Euro pillow cover from an old camp blanket that had a hole in it a couple years ago, and it worked perfectly in his room. I'm so glad I never got rid of it!

This shelf set up was so easy.  We bought four inexpensive metal brackets at Lowes and spray painted them with hammered metal spray paint.  My sweet husband installed them in studs and we had a six foot board cut in half for the shelf boards.  I stained them gray with leftover stain and loved the way they tied in with things.  The shelf materials cost under $25. 
We placed the books and items that had special meaning to Joe on his shelves and I think they turned out great!  He was a big Lego lover as a little boy and would spend hours creating things.  I love that a few of those creations have a place to be displayed as a reminder of his childhood. 

 The amazing sign above his bed is something he's had in his room for years.  Its from sweet Tara, at Between You and Me sign shop.
 Joe loves to play guitar, and we found this print on Etsy last Christmas as a present for him (I'm sorry I don't remember the name of the shop).  It's a guitar blueprint. 
 All of his clothing, hamper and dresser are in his closet and that works well since teen boy clothing should be behind closed doors. Ha! His hats are hung behind his door and a long mirror is attached to the back of his door.  I recently saw a great idea for a hamper... a metal garbage can with lid.  (He didn't need a hamper but it would sure look cool.  As for the men's room sign on his door... I have no words. He thinks it's hilarious.  I just go with it.  Boys.)
 I love using wall space as much as possible for kid rooms and these wall-mount guitar hangers are a great way to keep instruments off floors.
We recently changed our dining room lights and I had two of these metal barn lights from Lowe's leftover.  I wasn't sure what to do with them but when this makeover began, I decided to use one of them in Joe's room.  I spray painted it with more of that hammered metal paint. Joe chose an edison bulb and that's getting installed for him tonight. 

I'm so glad it turned out this well.  I won't lie, I so wanted to quit at about the half way mark but nothing great ever happens when you put things off or quit... so in light of my commitment post I shared the other day... I persevered.  Whoo!  

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Practicality speaks loudly.

You know that saying, "beauty is pain?"  Yeah well it may be true for high heels and piercing your ears, but it doesn't apply in real life with decor and kids, and mama-sanity. 

I've had to learn the hard way, that just because it works for others in social media, my kids are not everyone else, and sometimes that means changes must be made so we can continue to be a wash and wear family without all the stress of "keeping it perfectly pretty."  (Which meant that my trial with a white slip covered chair ended rather hastily some years ago, and the furry rug that made an appearance last fall got moved into a non-kid zone.  And that painting everything pretty-white does mean I must also scrub it clean, often.) So let's chat about this coffee table.  Oh how I love this table.  I could sing it's praises all day long.  

However.  I was a bit too excited when I made it over and didn't take time to sand it down (blechk!) so over time, the orange paint that it was coated in when I got it, began to show through the edges and when something would scratch it. Also, white table top... sometimes (often) dirty teen feet... bad idea.  I was scrubbing it constantly and then getting mad that I had to keep touching up paint and scrubbing it. 

Ain't no mama got time for something that requires that much work. 

Finally, I admitted defeat and came up with a new plan.  I sanded the entire thing down to the bare wood, no more orange paint.  Then I stained the top with a gray stain and painted the base in a dark gray-navy that works beautifully with my decor and the updated mid-century style of this piece.  It is both practical and pretty. Now everyone is happy.

Isn't it so easy to get caught up in what others choose to do with decor only to realize later, that your OWN real life, less strife and casual comfortable living mean more than cramming your family's style into a box it doesn't fit into?  I hate to admit it, but I can be that way on occasion and this table was a humbling reminder that I must stop and think through what works and what doesn't, in a practical way, not just because something is pretty. The good news, nearly everything is fixable and you can often combine a little bit of pretty into the practical.

(Side note for a giggle- I have given up the battle of the remote controls.  I found a cute metal tote in an antique shop because they are going to be on the table unless I move them... and if you can't beat em, join em!  Now, I only have to move them from the coffee table top into the metal tote sitting right beside them.)  (You get this right?  It's not a hard concept... but sometimes it's not a hill to die on, so I just move them into the tote that is meant to hold them and say nothing.) (ha!)

You may be noticing a few bits of fall here and there and they are all about the pretty!  It's likely the only "fall" I'll have on display, beside a real pumpkin or two, though I did make the cutest little sign in my kitchen this week and I'm hoping to share that next week! (That said, I swooned over a few glass pumpkins in Pottery Barn but somehow glass pumpkins didn't make the budget. Weird.) I pulled out my thankful pillow from last year, along with my paper wreaths from Ever Thine home and an old white pumpkin canister that I got at Target years ago. (By the way, I have visited Target once in going on two years now.  How is this possible?  I don't even know... but I don't even miss it.)

Of course the Seahawks football schedule is back on the big chalkboard and it makes my boys so happy. (Pretty? Meh.  Practical? Oh yeah baby!) (Let me restate that... it's "pretty" to my men!)

 Now this side table...  I had a white one from Ikea here, but I recently moved it into my bedroom Tv nook so I could set a lamp and a drink on it, and it's working so well in there. (I'll be updating house tour photos soon and will try to share that!)  This was an old wire basket from Land of Nod that Ava used as a little girl and I flipped it over and put a wood slice on it.  I've been using it randomly as a side table all over the house, but what I love about having it here, is that I can slide it beside the chair that sits in front of the bookshelves if I need it, or keep it here.  See? Practical.  Which I'm apparently all about right now.
This huge jar of candles and wire lights was sitting on the floor and it may end up back there again because I tend to gravitate toward less surface items on tables and such, and this is the opposite of that. (I have this thing- if there are items on the coffee table, it drives me nuts to also have things on the side tables.  I'm working it all out in my head.) (In case you wanted to know.)

Regardless, I'm trying it out on the table right now because we plug it in daily and I'm still not sure where I like it better.  The problem is that I love it both places at night... it's so cozy!  Is it practical?  Well... time will tell. But it's SO PRETTY!!! Especially at night.  (The lights are from Amazon and I love that they plug in rather than operate on expensive battery power.)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on practical vs. pretty living, and how you work in your own homes- if you, like me, try to combine it just a bit.  Isn't it fun how we all have different ways and styles that work specifically for us and our people?  (And if you have white slip covers, I'll try not to be jealous that you can make those babies work when I couldn't.) (Wink.)

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PS. There are only a few more days left to use the 15% coupon code for any prints in my shop.  All my holiday items are in stock, along with fall art and every day prints.  Use code FALL15 when you checkout. Click here to shop.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Me, today.

Hi sweet friends!  I'm doing my best to keep to my own personal goal of blogging on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It's something that really matters to me... sticking to a goal.  I was reflecting, and talking to my husband this weekend, and I was feeling pretty down on myself that I often set a goal, say yes, make a commitment and then go for it with both guns blazing, only to flare out, quit, bail, or kind of trail off near the end... 

So (of course) that got me all fired up to finish things and stick to them.  (I'm trying not to be too fired up in the beginning of this new commitment to stick to commitments though... because I don't want to continue this cycle.) Ha!!!

Anyway.  I had a birthday last week. 41. I got spoiled filthy, stinking, rotten and I loved every minute of it.  My husband and kids kicked off the party over Labor Day weekend and celebrated me every day all week. Dear friends were crowding my doorstep with flowers, candles, treats, presents etc (my kids were joking that our front porch looked like a vigil and my kitchen looked like a funeral or wedding) and my man spent the whole day with me on my actual birthday, including Sushi for dinner which is awesome considering it's hard to find gluten free sushi.  The whole day... er week... was ridiculous.  Ridiculously AWESOME.  Everyone should have birthdays.

Now I've got a growing stack of birthday present books from friends and I want to read them all.  Where is the time? I feel like that stack is sitting there mocking me and I'm too afraid to make a book reading commitment or personal goal because well...(One book at a time...)

Last week, I committed to taking cross country team photos for three meets. (Why aren't you there to stop me when I make these passionately excited commitments?) The first one was pouring in the gray rain and I (sadly characteristically) bailed and handed the camera off to Adrain for the meet all day last Saturday. You see what I mean?  I must stop doing that. However two things. Teenagers are awesome people... I think I like them better than most people and my kid is crazy fast.  I always knew that, but he's so fun to watch going up against high school peers. 

And I must tell you this, even though he's going to kill me. 

He asked a girl to Homecoming.  Apparently it's a big deal with corsage purchasing and such.  He had to ask her parents permission first because both of them can't date til they are 16 but we had given permission in a group setting...  so after forcing him to give me the entire play-by-play with verbatim words exchanged, I sat at the football game last weekend, giggling with my friend. She had the in on all the girls so we compared notes and apparently my boy did GOOD.  Also, I continually sneaked upward glances at my boy in the bleachers, while he sat next to said girl at the football game, in the freshman cheering section.

Also.. about the girl. He's had a thing for her since the 4th grade when he first laid eyes on her. She loves Jesus.  I mean, I just can't even.

I may be slightly bad with commitments, but I'm inspired by my kids and how they are doing life these days.  When this boy of mine runs, I can't help but think of this verse in Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"

Going to tuck that away with me this week and maybe I will be better able to stick to something!!  So that's me... my heart... today...and newly 41.  
To celebrate, I am running a sweet little one week sale in my shop.  (Here are my top three faves right now... but of course all my holiday prints are in stock, and many more.) Use code FALL15 for 15% off your next order.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Raising salty kids...

Those sweet, slow mornings of home school days.  Oh how I miss them.  Or even the gentle pace of elementary school mornings.  I remember fondly, how I'd get sleepy-eyed snuggles on the sofa and then I'd bundle kiddos off to their bedrooms in search of tiny jeans and sweaters while I mixed oatmeal for them at the stove.  As they shoveled brown sugared, hot goodness into their bellies, I'd sit down and read our morning devotional, or devo, as we call it.

Then the season changed and middle school hit, and they were harder to get up and get going.  We'd often rush through a 30 second devo at the front door but at least we got a spoonful! Then it changed again and now one is off to school a full hour before the other and neither is at the table or front door at the same time. So I've been scrambling again to find what will work NOW.  Make no mistake, I've always got one more plan to try because I won't give up when it comes to this.

I can get a little fierce about this topic, but I'll try to reign myself in a little.... One thing I'm passionate about as a mother, is that my job and main calling in life with these two, is to send them up and out to be the salt and light of this world. My job is to call out, "Remember Who you represent," as they step off the front porch steps each morning, even if they roll their eyes at me.  My job is to send them with a chunk of Jesus-bread in their hearts so that as they step onto a bus full of lost, swearing, crude peers, they have something of sustenance in them to share.  (And of course, the hope is always that it will guide their own words and actions with those peers... God promises His Word won't return void so I count on that promise, no matter how my kids choose to be!)   

So now, with teens, I've been on the hunt for something other than the Jesus Calling for kids which we loved all through elementary school. Or the Daily Bread which we loved through middle school because it was so quick.  I've been hunting and I wanted to share my top four favorite devos with kids right now.  (By all means, if you have another source that you love, leave it in comments for others to check out!)
The Real Force by Paul Kent.  Perfect for those who want to geek-out with the Jedi and Jesus.  (Teenage boys are cheering everywhere.) If you didn't think you could hook the two together... be not afraid, help you this will. (I just geeked out on you with a Yoda quip and if you didn't get that, just ask a teen boy to explain it.  He'll probably do the actual Yoda voice for you too.) I've only read a few as we just got this, but so far I'm (crazy enough) loving it! Anything to connect with my son.

Wisdom for Each Day by Billy Graham.  Well.  Do I even have to say anything  more?  I mean, sweet Billy. It's super quick to read out loud, as they gulp down a granola bar (I miss oatmeal mornings) and tie their shoes so they can run to catch the bus they are "almost about to miss, MOM!!"  (hypothetically.)

Love, Lexi by Sherry Kyle.  (I'm going 13 on you so like, be totally warned.) OMGOSH I love this so much I can't even stand it!!!! (grin.) What I love about this, is that I actually want to read the whole thing in one gulp, and I'm a mom.  I may or may not have even had tears over places I've read in this book.  It's got a storybook perspective of this sweet girl who writes all her day's woes out to God in a totally relate-able tween-teen girl way, each day, which makes this both a book and a devo.  Perfect for getting your girls to dig in!! Then it has a scripture/ God response to each of her letters, and journal space with great personal applications and questions for your daughter.  If I was 13, it'd be my BFF.

Jesus Calling for Kids, by Sarah Young. I had to include this in case you haven't read it or don't have it.  Nine times out of ten, it speaks to ME, even more than my kids.  This is our second copy over the years by the way, as we wore out our first one.  No lie! 

So, as we begin this new school year, I want to encourage you to make this happen for your people.  It's up to us Mamas.  We have to be intentional and carve it out.  This is the opposite of what I just blogged about last post.... this isn't something that just happens from a relaxed approach.  We make this a foundational tradition.  There might be push back sometimes and not every morning goes according to plan. But... we can do it.  Seasons change, kids change, schedules change but I so want to encourage myself (and you)... God doesn't ever change.  Don't you just love that He's there to offer a helping hand was we lead our little people?  It can feel like one more thing, but I have seen God be so faithful and help me, a non-morning person, find time and space to put Him first with my kids so that they can learn of Him.  He will help you too if you need it.  Just ask! 
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Isaiah 40:11
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Falliday traditions

Fiddler on the roof is one of my kid's favorite movies, and you'll often hear them belting out, "Tradition...." in a loud, musical voice.  Especially this time of year.  I always refer to it as the falliday season.  That's the season you get when you squish all the fall goodness right into Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  It's an entire season of hosting, gathering, memory making, and it's my favorite.  (Until spring, then that's my favorite.) With only a few short years to go until my babies fly the nest, I've been especially tender over the traditions we hold dear, in the Brodeur household.  

The truth is, as a parent, you never know what a child is going to latch onto. I remember when my babies were small and I was desperate to create lasting, family traditions. I asked a mentor mom in my church how she cultivated them with her children, and her response stuck with me these many years later. She said, "Oh I don't know that anything I set out to make become a tradition really was often the things we did 'because' that became a tradition over time and stuck. Like when they were toddlers and would go outside to play in the snow...I would be worried over their frozen little fingers so I'd always get mugs of hot cocoa ready.  When they came inside, I'd sit them all down at the table and put a warm mug into their little hands.  Over time, whenever it snowed they wanted cocoa because it was tradition, and that's how a lot of our family traditions developed." 

Her relaxed approach helped shaped me as a young mom in many ways, because I saw it to be true.  Those times I tried way too hard, didn't take.  The ones that effortlessly unfolded seemed to be the lasting ones. It was life giving too, because I longed for some of the same traditions I had growing up, but with my own twist. Since I do a lot of the same things my precious mama did, we have naturally developed a few similar traditions...but it sure took the pressure off having to do certain things in order to make them happen. 

When I chat with my other mom-friends, it seems that across the board, all our kids crave tradition, they just don't know what they'd call it.  What they know that they love is whatever feels stable and expected. Don't we all? Life hits us sometimes and it can make us wonder if there's anyone in charge of our own stability.  It is a lot easier to offer the kind of stability and expected traditions to my kiddos, when I've taken the time to put my heart in check first... when I've wandered close to the Savior and found my security in His presence and the promises that He goes ahead of me.

I'm not sure if you have no children, young children or grown children, but as we prepare for the falliday season, and begin pulling out trusted recipes, cozy scarves, boots, and grandmas turkey platter...  will you commit alongside me, and join in finding our expected stability at the feet of Jesus, so that we can be full of His love as we prepare those sweet traditions for our loved ones, no matter who they might be or what age they are?  Let's fill up so we can pour out and remember that no matter our circumstances and the state of our falliday season to come... He goes before us. I  especially love the encouragement from this verse-

Deuteronomy  31:8
"The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."

P.S. This new moody pear print is now available in my shop!
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Thursday, September 1, 2016

When the lightbulb goes on...

Here I am, back before the week's end, with blog post #2!  I'm mostly cheering myself because I sat at my kitchen table before school began, with a planner diary, stack of post its, random lists, highlighters of many colors, and made what I'll dramatically call, a fall-life-plan. (I feel it's important to name your plans.) (It may also have involved a master color code for blocks of scheduled activity but I can't confirm or deny this particular vent of any A-type personality quirks. And if you try to sneak a look at the back cover of my planner, I'll know what you're after and you might get your hand slapped away.) (Just saying.)

Lately, I'm getting all crazy about keeping myself in line when I make a commitment, but despite my best laid plans... my plans often go awry! It's not like I do it on purpose, just the opposite in fact. Most of the commitments I make but later bail on, are due to things like unforeseen schedule changes with my kids and things of that nature. Oh, but boy do I quickly jump on that feeling of failing someone or something, and beat myself silly with it, no matter the reasons!  That feeling of failure has been chasing me down of late.  I've read a handful of devotionals and encouraging things talking about grace whether we're actual failures (or just perceived ones in our minds.) I could dig my spoon deep into that bowl of grace.

I had a deep mama-failure week that wasn't limited to the following anecdote, but was certainly defined by it. Or rather, I let myself be defined by it. Before school began, I set up specific things with and for my kids and planned all the follow through on the big family calendar. It was all going along swimmingly, until it wasn't. One tender-hearted child had what felt like a crushing experience and quit a beloved activity on the first night back, despite many long conversations. It was exhausting and fruitless and emotional.  For everyone.  I could see the reasoning, and why it went down the way it did. But I could also see why and how my child reacted that way and I could really see how I didn't think ahead! How I didn't prepare them more.  How I didn't think to step in and do some research that could have made it turn out differently. Which quickly turned into; why wasn't I more?  Why wasn't I different?  Why do I always screw things like this up, with this one child in these circumstances?  Why can't I make this part of my relationship with them something that makes sense to us both?  No matter, because in the end, I was too little too late, as they say.  I couldn't fix any part of it, and we flaked and the calendar changed. And I utterly failed. I failed the child and I failed as a mom and I failed as a person, because I am a mom!  


If I was honest, I'd admit that this hit me hard because, 1) I deeply care for the future of this child, along with my future relationship with them.  But also, 2) because I continue to fail myself in ways I shouldn't. Things I know better about, but can't make myself do or stop doing.  I've been smack, hard, face-down in the middle of failure puddles lately, strangled by mud of my own making.  My prayers all begin a little something like, "Hey God... so... I totally don't deserve this (I know I deserve the opposite) but can You help with..."
 And then, after reading two different devotionals about failure and grace, hearing a sermon on it Sunday, and then reading a blog post... I listened and the light bulb went on. I'd been getting it all twisted in my head again like I often do, dwelling on the part that said I wasn't good enough.  And that it had anything to do with me at all.  It hit me that of COURSE I'm actually not, "good enough."  I'll never be. Which, quite honestly, can drive a person with a color-coded planner schedule insane.  The good news, He is always perfect, and His Spirit lives inside of me, giving me His perfect power over all my failings.  ALL.  He gives me forgiveness when I genuinely do sin and get it wrong, so I can drop that, "I totally don't deserve this" caveat from all my prayers because, HELLO, I never did deserve any of it.  That's why they call it undeserved grace! Which is what makes it the most precious of gifts. I read, "Grace is completely unreasonable.  It's God's consistent, gentle determination to show us kindness and favor even when we wreck our lives..." -Becca Wellan  It was the "wreck our lives" part of that quote that got me.  Sure, I'm not doing big things that destroy my family. But my small failures and sins combined, often feel unforgivable. (To me.) We can't let the enemy smear our hearts with all that self-condemnation that leaves us standing achingly looking down at the mess we've made.  Looking at self. Rather, God is standing there with a bucket of pure, clean grace, wanting to lavish us in it with His forgiveness and lift our eyes off self, and onto Him instead.  His grace cleanses us of that self-failure-mud.  We only have to accept it and live in it with the Holy Spirit guiding us.  We make it so much harder than it is.  Let's make it simple in our hearts and keep ourselves out of the equation.  Let's put Him back into the center.  Let's not let our feelings drive us.  Let's let God's truth lead us as we make (and perhaps have to break) our plans.  His plans prevail.

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Proverbs 19:21 (MSG) "We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
    but God’s purpose prevails."

Romans 8:1-4 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

(P.S. My dining lights were a birthday present, and can be found here.) 

Monday, August 29, 2016

DIY centerpiece (that costs less than a bouquet of flowers)

 I don't know about you, but our dining table seems to be the most used space and hub of our home this time of year.  The hurried fall nights, filled with after school activities, often bring friends and family over for a simple meal.  Our table is long and comfortably seats ten but I'm often stumped for a pretty centerpiece that doesn't take up too much of the middle, which is a bit narrow.  And I'll be honest, I find myself liking useless centerpieces less and less in life. Though things piled high on plates and into the center can look pretty, if it has to get moved, shifted or set aside in order to fill a plate, it drives me crazy. (I look back at some of the more elaborate ways I've styled tabletops in my past and shake my head. I've learned, that a simple table is a far more comfortable table.  I often find myself setting the table when the dinner is nearly ready and guests are enjoying conversation and drinks around the kitchen while last minute prep is in the works. The act of setting a table while chatting with your guests, or even putting them to work laying silverware along side you, sets the entire crowd at ease, as though they are a part of the evening, rather than a bystander.)

Mostly, I love putting actual food into the center of a table and making that the focus and centerpiece. However, there is something dreamy and inviting about candles this time of year, isn't there?  I often light them while I'm cooking dinner and before I know it, my people are hovering, anticipating something special, even on a weekday night.  I love that, because with teens in sports and activities, dinner can be very hit-or-miss!  (As an aside, I do believe in lighting your candles regularly! I often work in homes where a candle sits, dusty with non-use, and a pristine wick bends sideways, begging for a purpose. I itch to light and enjoy it!)

I have a bit of a love affair with tapers.  (I don't like most taper candle holders though because they seem sort of lonely unless you fill the spaces around them with spectacular flowers and such... and then we've crossed that line into a fussy centerpiece and I'm out... unless it's a special occasion.)  I've seen drilled out wood chunks, holding votives or tapers other places, and always appreciated the simplicity.  I asked my husband to help me make this and he loves me so much he let me take some photos and share his details and measuring with you so that you can make one without dealing with all of the math.  I love the look of raw wood, but my tabletop is sealed barn wood so I went with a whitewash (an equal mix of white craft paint and water, brushed on in several coats.)  Obviously, you could make yours and not do a thing to it... that would have been my first choice if my table was white!

In the end, you'll end with 16 candle holes in a 3 foot chunk of wood. (please see my note beside the drill bit, below) The cost for this project is minimal which is the best part. This entire project cost me less than a grocery store bouquet of flowers.  I had the paint and drill bit on hand.  I did have some candles on hand, but I purchased another box. I even got my board cut for free, plus 70% off at Home Depot, because I chose a bad board...or at least they said it was. It looked fine to me but for around $3, I didn't argue! (It had some sap and knots but I left that cut piece with them and took the good end.)

Here's what you'll need:
*Drill bit 3/4" (*Note- we tried this size bit ahead of time on scrap wood and tried putting in my tapers.  It was a tight fit that required me to kind of screw the taper in, shaving the bottom wax out a bit as I pushed down, and I liked how secure that felt but you may want to use a slightly larger bit so feel free to experiment if you like.)
*3 feet long 4x6 untreated wood plank
*felt adhesive pads for the underside
*taper candles
*stain, paint or finish of your choice

Here's how you'll create this:

Mark 2 straight lines down the board in pencil, 1 3/4" from the side edges, for candle hole rows.  You'll be staggering each drilled hole on those lines.
Begin measuring to make your drill marks.  One line of marks will start 6" from end, with marks every 4" finishing with its final mark 2" from end. The other line of marks will start 4" from end with marks every 4", finishing 4" from that end, so you have created a staggered effect. See above photo. 

Drill down about an inch deep, keeping the drill straight so you don't end up with leaning candles.

Brush off sawdust and lightly sand rough edges. (I didn't sand out the drilled holes, but you certainly could do that.  At this point, you might also want to erase any pencil lines left on the wood.

Paint, stain or distress any way you desire.

Adhere some felt pads to the underside, to protect your tabletop surface, then screw each taper into the holes, gently pushing down to make a tight and secure fit.  (Wax will pool around the bottom as you do this, so I used a paper towel to brush away the excess wax away.) 

And that's it!  The rustic wood pairs beautifully with the tapers, giving dinner a special flair and we've already lit ours several times over the weekend!  (This would look amazing on a large mantle or console table (perhaps only a single row of tapers... and making sure you have enough room to keep it safe of course!) or during the holiday season, with greenery and oranges tucked around the bottom.)

I hope you enjoyed this DIY and let me know if you've got any questions in comments and I'll do my best to answer them. 
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